NBA: Stephen Curry silences critics as Golden State Warriors rout Houston Rockets to take 2-1 lead in Western Conference Finals


Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors gestures after the game against the Houston Rockets on May 20, 2018, in Oakland, California.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors gestures after the game against the Houston Rockets on May 20, 2018, in Oakland, California. PHOTO: AFP

OAKLAND (AFP) - Stephen Curry silenced his critics with a 35-point display as the Golden State Warriors thrashed the Houston Rockets 126-85 to take a 2-1 series lead in the National Basketball Association Western Conference Finals on Sunday (May 20).

Curry, targeted relentlessly by Houston as the Rockets levelled the series in Game 2, overcame a sluggish first-half display to lead a Warriors' blowout in Game 3.

The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player exploded for 18 points alone in a devastating spurt of scoring in the third quarter that took the game away from Houston.

Reigning champions Golden State now have the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 lead with a further victory in front of their home fans in Game 4 on Tuesday as they chase a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The win was a record 16th straight playoff victory at home for the Warriors at the Oracle Arena. Perhaps more significantly, the 41-point margin of defeat was Houston's heaviest in a playoff game.

As well as Curry, every other Warriors starter made double figures, with Kevin Durant finishing with 25 points and Klay Thompson 13.

Rockets star James Harden meanwhile was kept relatively quiet, with 20 points, while Chris Paul finished with 13.

The Warriors had edged into a nine-point lead in the first quarter, building momentum steadily to go 31-22 clear.

While Curry had a slow start to the night, making just one of seven three-point attempts in the first half, Durant gradually began to impose himself.

The towering forward had 15 points in the first half, and pushed the Warriors' lead to 54-41 with just under 30 seconds left in the half.

Durant was in the thick of the action early in the third quarter, as the Warriors stitched together a trademark burst of scoring.

Eight unanswered points suddenly saw the Warriors jump into a 21-point lead at 64-43.

The Rockets responded bravely to the onslaught, going on a 10-2 run to slash the home side's lead to 13 points.

But just when it looked as if the Rockets were hauling themselves back into contention, the Warriors exploded with a 13-0 run that saw them surge into a 27-point lead.

Curry was the architect, suddenly finding his range and raising the roof with a three-pointer past the covering Harden followed by an impish one-handed lay-up to make it 80-56.

A Durant three-pointer rubbed salt into the wound and took Golden State 27 points clear.

From there, it appeared the only question to be settled would be the margin of victory, but the Warriors showed no inclination to ease up, with Quinn Cook adding 11 points off the bench in five minutes.